The Dyson Airblade™. What is that all about? Have you seen these things? They’re popping up everywhere. It’s a hand drying revolution. They have them in the gents toilets at Meadowhall. I’m not convinced.
OK, here’s the science bit.
For all intents and purposes the Airblade™ does the same job as an old school hand drier. But rather than the machine simply having a blower that points down, instead you tuck your hands into what seems to be an adapted magazine rack and ‘air is forced through two continuous apertures the width of an eyelash – creating sheets of air travelling at 400mph. Water is scraped from hands in just 10 seconds.’ Yippekayay. The Airblade™ further claims that ‘it’s hygienic, too, purifying the air before blowing it onto [your] hands.’
Hmmm. Just a minute. Let’s review that – after using a public toilet and washing your hands in tepid water – that squirted on and off for all of a nanosecond – you queue up behind a bunch of strangers who’ve also just used the facilities and then rinsed their hands briefly as well. Once the people in front of you have shuffled forwards and used the Airblade™ , your turn comes to step up to the plate and you put your sopping wet Danny boys between some plastic and air gets blown onto them. Right. OK. Erm. How can that ever be hygienic? I’m not talking about the air, I’m sure that’s purified through certified, safety approved filters and all that, just as they claim and comes out cleaner than the breezes high above a Tibetean monastry. I’m talking about the device itself. Because I’ve tried the Airblade™ and there’s no space. Clearance between your skin and the plastic on either side as you try to tuck your hands into it is about a centimetre. And it feels less. There’s very little margin for error. This is like a public lavs version of the 1970s kids’ game ‘Operation’. A challenge of nerve and dexterity. This time, you touch the side and instead of an electronic beep and a red light, you get someone else’s sticky piss on your hands and catch conjunctivitis.
All right, you could say I’m quite finicky when it comes to using public toilets. I am. Call me cynical but I don’t think they’re the most hygienic places in the world. And I’ve been known to paper the seat from time to time. To operate the flush with my foot. But I don’t believe that my wary attitude is unreasonable when it comes to other people’s bodily fluids. Dyson engineers spent three years developing, testing and refining Airblade™ technology. Three years. And in all that time they didn’t identify other people’s piss as a problem? No? Obviously not because they created a plastic gap that you have to place your wet hands inside. Come on. Piss. Stools. And that’s before we even consider that George Michael and his mates might have been in there already. Think about it. Put down the Sodoku, the Rubik’s cubes, the Brain Training and reason it through. How can that be right? But that’s the Tefal head syndrome for you. The Airblade™ represents a problem cracked in splendid scientific isolation. ‘Dyson is about developing new technology to solve everyday problems.’ In this case, totally removed from the day to day practicalities of those problems. Like the artificial knees developed for the NHS that hinged upwards because they seemed more practical for long haul flights and clearing low walls. But you could only walk backwards with them. Because part of the trouble is that scientists don’t product test. They problem test. Can you develop something that dries hands and is cheap to run? Some flip charts, a few technical drawings on squared paper, a couple of scale models and three years later they come up with the Airblade™. Voila. I can see the boffins putting the Airblade™ through its paces in some white room. Oh, that works fine, Tim. The Dyson engineer holds his hands aloft. Buffed. Snuff dry. Method, results, conclusion. Dry as a bone. I think we’ve cracked it! But I bet they didn’t have a shambling alcoholic in the lab, did they? Who’s got piss up to his elbows and walks like the tectonic plate has just shifted beneath him. No. Do you think Einstein would want to slip his hands into the Airblade™ after Alky Ted from Sparrow Park has had his rancid mits inside it?
I appreciate inventiveness, whether it be the Apple iPod or Lady Heather fleecing Sir Paul for twenty-four million quid, but sometimes you can seek out ingenuity just for the sake of it. Like the Star Wars prequels and the European Union. Now, don’t get me wrong, Airblade™ inventor James Dyson did us all a favour when he came up with the idea of the bagless vacuum cleaner (can we still call them Hoovers?), the suction was great and they looked kind of stylish as well. Sexy vacuums. Then he took that concept, thought outside the box, and stuck a ball on the bottom of it to give the cleaner more mobility. It works. Clever stuff. But I feel Airblade™ is Dyson’s own Operation Market Garden. He’s gone a Bridge Too Far. It’s this whole – hand in a box/other people’s piss thing. It puts me off. I feel there’s a flaw in there somewhere. Though obviously, in this day and age, being clever and simply functioning successfully is not enough. The Airblade™ is also going to save the planet. It’s all about the carbon footprint. The Airblade™ uses speed rather than warmth to achieve its ends. It aims to dry nineteen pairs of hands for the price of a single paper towel. And to accomplish its mission Dyson calculates that the Airblade™ uses 80% less energy than traditional warm air hand driers. Which is good. I’m all for it. Up to a point. But not if it means that I’ve got have someone else’s dirty wazz on my pandies. In which case I’ll stick with wiping my hands on the back of my jeans, ta.